Why We Hate (and Love) Personal Responsibility
The stories we tell about how the world works reveal a lot about our needs and fears.
I’m going to tell you two stories about your life.
This is the first story: your life is unfair. Life made a victim of you, by inflicting trauma, injustice or oppression wherever you made an attempt at flourishing. The cards are stacked against you, by ignorant people and indifferent systems that view your life as disposable and your happiness as irrelevant. This world is toxic and insane.
Your suffering is not of your making. None of this was your fault, and those who think you should be doing more to make yourself happy are ignoring the very real circumstances beyond your control, not to mention the ways they actively contribute to your suffering.
This is the second story: your life is what you make of it. In every moment, you choose whether to increase your suffering or your joy. You live by beliefs, conscious and unconscious, that impact what choices you see as possible for you to make. You can expand your choices by becoming conscious of your beliefs and behavior, by choosing thoughts and actions that lead you to greater confidence, self-acceptance and happiness.
Suffering is something you choose to do, though perhaps not consciously. Becoming conscious enough to create your own happiness is something you have not chosen to do. You can always make choices to increase your happiness, and those who think otherwise are ignorant of the ways they contribute to their own suffering.
The question today is not, “Which of these stories is true?” I’d like to think anyone could find some truth in either of them. Rather, the much more interesting question is, “Which story did you like more?”
In the first story, the world is insane and toxic, and you are not at fault for its toxicity. In the second story, your life is within your power to shape, and you are empowered to make different choices to shape it. I’m going to venture a guess here, that if you feel disempowered in your life today, you preferred the first story, and if you feel empowered today, you preferred the second.